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KNOXVILLE — A computational chemist was named Friday as a University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory distinguished scientist and director of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences.

Dr. Thom Dunning, chemistry professor and director of the University of North Carolina Research

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Dr. Thom Dunning

and Education Network, specializes in computational chemistry to predict molecular properties and their chemical reactions.

UT Provost Loren Crabtree said Dunning will hold the title of distinguished professor in UT-s departments of chemistry and chemical engineering and of distinguished scientist in the computer science and mathematics division at ORNL. He also will head the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences.

“In addition to strengthening UT’s research partnership with ORNL, having Thom Dunning as a distinguished scientist is sure to boost the development of high performance computing resources for the entire state of Tennessee,” Crabtree said.

Dr. Jesse Poore, director of the UT-ORNL Science Alliance, said Dunning-s appointment marks the third major step in JICS development, after the consolidation of the organization at ORNL and the beginning of construction of the new JICS building on the ORNL campus.

An official groundbreaking for the $10 million, 45,000-square-foot facility is set for later this month.

“Thom Dunning is probably the very best person in the country for this job,” Poore said. “Not only does he have extensive scientific management experience, he has a sterling record in research.”

The JICS was established in 1991 through the Science Alliance, a UT Center of Excellence, and ORNL. The Distinguished Scientist Program is the alliance’s primary program.

“Dr. Dunning-s appointment represents a significant partnership opportunity in computational sciences for ORNL and UT,” Thomas Zacharia, ORNL associate laboratory director, said. “This partnership will strengthen computational sciences at both institutions and will enhance education and research in this field.

“We look forward to Thom-s leadership in establishing JICS as a national institute.”

Dunning, who earned the Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1970, is author of more than 100 scientific publications on advanced techniques for molecular calculations, laser spectroscopy and the chemical reactions of combustion.

His work on hydrogen and hydrocarbon fuel combustion has made it possible to compute the heat of many chemical reactions to an accuracy often better than results obtained from experiments.

He was vice-president for High Performance Computing and Communications in the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina and the North Carolina Supercomputing Center. In 1997, he received the first fellowship awarded by Battelle, which co-manages ORNL with UT.